House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Order in Council Appointments
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table today, in both official languages, a number of order in council appointments made recently by the government.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to several petitions.

Report on Rural Canada
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Secretary of State (Rural Development)(Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the second annual report to parliament on rural Canada entitled “Enhancing the Quality of Life for Rural Canadians”.

World War I
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Liberal

Ronald J. Duhamel Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Western Economic Diversification) (Francophonie)

Mr. Speaker, hon. colleagues, I rise in the Chamber to speak about the first world war and the fate of some Canadian soldiers, a fate that has been essentially forgotten in the pages of history.

For the young nation of Canada, the promise and optimism that infused the dawning 20th century was abruptly cut short by the first world war. No one anticipated such carnage, or that we would soon be sending young citizens into a war that would see 65 million people from 30 nations take up arms, where 10 million people would lose their lives and 29 million more would be wounded, captured or missing.

Never before had there been such a war, neither in the number of lives taken, nor in the manner of their taking. New weapons would turn fields of battle into slaughter grounds, while the rigours of life in the trenches would kill many of those who escaped bullet or bayonet.

This “war to end all wars” challenged our small country of 8 million to its limits. Almost 650,000 served in the Canadian Forces in the Great War. Over 68,000—more than one in ten who fought—did not return. Total casualties amounted to more than one third of those who were in uniform. Thousands came home broken in body, mind, and spirit.

The service of Canadians in uniform was as remarkable as it was distinguished. History records their sacrifice in places whose names resonate even to the present day. Battle names such as Ypres, The Somme, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele and Amiens.

Those who lived then and the historians who followed would declare that Canada came of age because of its actions and ingenuity during World War I.

But where history speaks of national sacrifice and achievement, it is too often silent on the individual stories of triumph, tragedy and terror of those who fought and died on the terrible killing fields of France and Belgium.

Those who went to war at the request of their nation could not know the fate that lay in store for them. This was a war of such overwhelming sound, fury and unrelenting horror that few combatants could remain unaffected.

For the majority of the Canadians who took up arms and paid the ultimate sacrifice, we know little of their final moments, except that they died in defence of freedom.

Today I want to talk about 23 of our fallen. I would like to tell the House about these soldiers because these circumstances were quite extraordinary. These 23 soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force occupy an unusual position in our military history. They were lawfully executed for military offences such as desertion and, in one case, cowardice.

We can revisit the past but we cannot recreate it. We cannot relive those awful years of a nation at peril in total war, and the culture of that time is subsequently too distant for us to comprehend fully.

We can, however, do something in the present, in a solemn way, aware now, better than before, that people may lose control of their emotions, have a breakdown for reasons over which they have little control. For some it would have been known today perhaps as post-traumatic stress disorder.

To give these 23 soldiers a dignity that is their due and to provide a closure for their families, as the Minister of Veterans Affairs on behalf of the Government of Canada, I wish to express my deep sorrow at their loss of life, not because of what they did or did not do but because they too lie in foreign fields where poppies blow amid the crosses row on row.

While they came from different regions of Canada, they all volunteered to serve their country in its citizen-army, and that service and the hardships they endured prior to their offences will be recorded and unremembered no more.

Allow me to enter their names into the record of the House: Quartermaster Sergeant William Alexander, Bombadier Frederick Arnold, Private Fortunat Auger, Private Harold Carter, Private Gustave Comte, Private Arthur Dagesse, Private Leopold Délisle, Private Edward Fairburn, Private Stephen Fowles, Private John Higgins, Private Henry Kerr, Private Joseph La Lalancette, Private Come Laliberté, Private W. Norman Ling, Private Harold Lodge, Private Thomas Moles, Private Eugene Perry, Private Edward Reynolds, Private John Roberts, Private Dimitro Sinizki, Private Charles Welsh, Private James Wilson and Private Elsworth Young.

We remember those who have been largely forgotten. For over 80 years, they have laid side by side with their fallen comrades in the cemeteries of France and Belgium.

I am announcing today in the Chamber that the names of these 23 volunteers will be entered into The First World War Book of Remembrance along with those of their colleagues. Adding the names of these citizen soldiers to the pages of this sacred book, which lies in the Memorial Chamber not far from here, will be a fair and just testament to their service, their sacrifice and our gratitude forevermore.

Lest we forget.

World War I
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, we fully support what the minister has done today. We believe this is not only owed to our veterans but that it is one of the ways in which the great country of Canada can avoid covering up or trying to hide and instead can give recognition where recognition is due.

Canada can be proud of its participation in World War I and of its significant contribution to world peace and political stability. It was also a time when we became a nation. In World War II we were one step ahead in lending support to the allies. Not only that, we made a defining difference to the outcome of both wars.

Many Canadians do not realize that 94 of our Canadians received the Victoria Cross which is awarded for bravery, a daring act of valour or self-sacrifice in the presence of the enemy. Even with our small population, Canada received about 10% of all honours issued worldwide. Let no one ever doubt that Canadians were among the very bravest in the world.

However, as the hon. minister has noted, when we speak of the horrors of war we describe experiences and traumatic events that, even for the best of our soldiers, were very hard to overcome. Every soldier handled the horrors and terrors to the best of their ability. Yet, not unlike today, there were some who were not able to cope with the events.

Today we have toned down the language that was used at that time. What is sometimes referred to today as post-traumatic stress disorder was simply called shell shock or some other negative term. Before that, some soldiers were simply labelled as cowards or deserters but they were not deserving of those titles. That is what the hon. minister has done in bringing this issue forward. Whatever the label, whatever the cause, there exists in our history what might be called a dark spot, but today that dark spot has been erased forever.

Twenty-three of our soldiers who were executed in a foreign land and whose graves occupy foreign soil are today receiving what is rightfully theirs: the formal recognition of their deaths recorded forever in The First World War Book of Remembrance .

With this act it is my hope and indeed the hope of the opposition that closure will be given to the families of these individuals to this event in history.

World War I
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, and the entire Quebec nation I am sure, I would like to express our satisfaction with the acknowledgement of the involvement of these 23 soldiers in World War I.

These 23 young men volunteered to defend freedom. They took part in a cruel war, and one we realize today was completely pointless: 30 countries, 10 million dead, 29 million wounded. These young men came to question certain decisions, to wonder about the appropriateness of certain commands.

For daring to think, for daring to question, the cruel law of war , instead of trying to understand them, had them executed, forgetting the months of sacrifice they had given in the service of their country.

Today we are correcting that error, at least in some part, by entering their names among our heroes in the Book of Remembrance.

I would like to encourage their descendants to be proud of these men. I would also like to extend to them the condolences of my party and myself.

I would like to remind them of the words of the great French author, Alexandre Dumas, “Those whom we have loved and lost are no longer where they were, but they continue forever to be wherever we are”.

World War I
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure on behalf of the federal New Democratic Party across the country to welcome the veterans affairs minister's comments today in the House of Commons and let him know we support without question the induction of the names of these 23 brave men into the hallowed book of remembrance on Parliament Hill. It is a wonderful act. It is long overdue, but we are glad some closure can be brought today.

One cannot help but think about soldiers, those who die on the battlefields and witness the horrors of war, and notice the courage and bravery these men and women have shown throughout the history of our country.

Courage and bravery are also shown in this room today by the Minister of Veterans Affairs who brings great honour and courage to his department. On behalf of the New Democratic Party I wish him and his family the very best of the holiday season and better health for the near future. May God bless him.

As one who comes from a family liberated by Canadians in World War II, I will also mention the sacrifices made by Canadians. When a young man or woman signs up they do not know what it must have been like until they get there and smell, feel and see the horrors.

Who in the Chamber could say they would not show a bit of cowardice or challenge to authority if someone told them to get out of a foxhole and run toward a bunch of shooting arms in their way? How many of us would have the courage to do that? Unless we are in that situation we do not know what goes through the mind of a young man or young woman.

The names of these 23 men have a rightful place in the book of remembrance. We are proud to stand here today with the Minister of Veterans Affairs to show our support not only to him and the department but to the families of these men. As he said, lest we forget their names, forever they will be honoured in the House of Commons.

World War I
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. minister for what he has done today in the House of Commons for these 23 first world war veterans.

It is an honour to rise today and pay tribute to these men. When the Great War began in August 1914, Canada was still in its infancy. In many ways the volunteers who joined the Canadian expeditionary force reflected Canada itself: young, full of innocence and eager to prove themselves.

None of the soldiers, regardless of what part of Canada they came from, could have been prepared for what they encountered. The barrages of artillery and constant machine gun fire that surrounded them always left them wondering “Why am I here? Only for my people back home in Canada and around the world”. They constantly waited for the whistle to blow that would send them across the mud fields of the Somme, Vimy Ridge or Passchendaele.

My mother's only brother, my uncle Samuel Cook, was one of those who was in the first world war. He was shot. The bullet went through his neck, through one side and out the other. However he was one of those who came home.

I had the honour and privilege of visiting Vimy and seeing all the names of those who were lost in the war. Their bodies did not come home. Their names are on the monument. These 23 men walked past friends who had fallen on barbed wire fence and much too often had fallen to death. In the four years of fighting 10 million soldiers were killed and 20 million were maimed.

The war was a psychological nightmare for all. We are not here to debate the 23 soldiers who were executed for military offences. We are here to remember and honour them. They experienced horrors we can only imagine. Even then it is beyond our grasp. We are aware now that the horrors and subsequent reactions were beyond their control. We cannot go back in time to help them through the horrors but we can give these 23 soldiers a dignity that is their due. They were Canadians. They were soldiers. They were men who made sacrifices. Their names should now be included in our The First World War Book of Remembrance , and rightfully so.

I thank the minister and the House, particularly at this special time of Christmas. Lest we forget.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee completed a study on marine infrastructure, small craft harbours.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I present to the House a petition on behalf of a number of Canadians concerning the issue of protecting people with disabilities and the Latimer decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.

The petitioners ask the House under subsection 15(1) of the charter of rights and freedoms to uphold the Latimer decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Ben Serré Timiskaming—Cochrane, ON

Mr. Speaker, I present a petition on behalf of residents of my riding of Timiskaming--Cochrane. They request that the Parliament of Canada ban human embryo research and direct the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to support and fund only promising, ethical research that does not involve the destruction of human life.

I would like the record to show that I agree with the petitioners.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement government orders will be extended by 19 minutes.